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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions

Land Use Change Effects on Forest Carbon Cycling Throughout the Southern United States


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 4, p. 1348-1363
    Received: Apr 26, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): pbw1@cornell.edu
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  1. Peter B. Woodbury *,
  2. Linda S. Heath and
  3. James E. Smith
  1. USDA Forest Service-NE, P.O. Box 640, Durham, NH 03824. P.B. Woodbury, current address: Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853


We modeled the effects of afforestation and deforestation on carbon cycling in forest floor and soil from 1900 to 2050 throughout 13 states in the southern United States. The model uses historical data on gross (two-way) transitions between forest, pasture, plowed agriculture, and urban lands along with equations describing changes in carbon over many decades for each type of land use change. Use of gross rather than net land use transition data is important because afforestation causes a gradual gain in carbon stocks for many decades, while deforestation causes a much more rapid loss in carbon stocks. In the South-Central region (Texas to Kentucky) land use changes caused a net emission of carbon before the 1980s, followed by a net sequestration of carbon subsequently. In the Southeast region (Florida to Virginia), there was net emission of carbon until the 1940s, again followed by net sequestration of carbon. These results could improve greenhouse gas inventories produced to meet reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Specifically, from 1990 to 2004 for the entire 13-state study area, afforestation caused sequestration of 88 Tg C, and deforestation caused emission of 49 Tg C. However, the net effect of land use change on carbon stocks in soil and forest floor from 1990 to 2004 was about sixfold smaller than the net change in carbon stocks in trees on all forestland. Thus land use change effects and forest carbon cycling during this period are dominated by changes in tree carbon stocks.

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Copyright © 2006. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA